Friday, December 4


Saint Barbara and Things that Go Boom in the Night

(Title gratuitously stolen from here.)

Sam over in the NLM combox brought to mind an old but favorite post of mine on the subject of today's explosive saint of the day, St. Barbara, which not only touches on her life, legends and lore, but includes possibly the most unusual image I have ever seen of her: lithe and velvet-draped, but wearing a steel trench helmet (with attached veil, naturally). Here's a sample:
While these fanciful accretions (even Blessed Jacobus de Voragine sounds a bit skeptical when he gets to the bit about St. Margaret and the exploding dragon) proved to be a bit of a liability when they got unceremoniously booted off the General Calendar in 1969 after more than a millennia of prayers answered and miracles worked, St. Katherine's cultus was restored in the most recent edition of the Roman Missal, and SS. Margaret and Barbara are back in play now that the Motu Proprio has reinstituted the traditional calendar, which is something that will gladden the hearts of votaries and saint-watchers everywhere.

(And, in the case of St. Barbara, practicioners of santería. Note to readers: it's one thing to have a statue of St. Barbara on a house, it's quite another to put a dollar bill, a glass of water, and an apple in front of it and call it Shango. Just letting you know.)

A certain skepticism about some of the wonkier historical details in their record is inevitable (and hardly blasphemous, in my mind, if a little tiresome), but, whatever their biographies, surely someone up there must be answering those prayers. In the end, their legends remind us of the very real presence of the miraculous, or even the merely wondrous in the world, and, especially in the case of St. Katherine, in some versions a queen-regnant with a brilliant mind and a considerable amount of "don't mess with me" attitude, the unique genius and even power of Catholic Woman. No pale churchmice they. (More here.)
St. Barbara is patroness of architects, though given she interrupted the workmen and insisted they completely change their plans, perhaps she should be patron saint of clients.

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